Where Auburn football recruits stand after Gus Malzahn's firing
AUBURN — An unusual year in college football may be about to get even more unusual for Auburn.
The NCAA's early signing period begins Wednesday. It's possible that the Tigers will not have a permanent head coach by then.
Gus Malzahn was fired Sunday after eight winning seasons at the helm. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, one of the candidates to replace him, is currently leading the program under an interim tag. Auburn had not made a hire as of Monday afternoon.
Normally, firing a coach the day after the regular season ends would give a program two-plus weeks to hire a new coach. But because of the way COVID-19 altered the schedule this year, Auburn's regular-season finale at Mississippi State – a 24-10 win Saturday – took place just four days before recruits can begin signing National Letters of Intent.
Auburn's 2021 recruiting class was already in a precarious position, ranked 43rd nationally with only 12 commitments, and the uncertainly likely won't help matters.
But Auburn has received some good news: most notably from four-star quarterback Dematrius Davis, who said via Twitter on Monday that he still plans to sign with the Tigers on Wednesday morning.
The No. 8-ranked dual-threat quarterback is arguably the jewel of the class despite not being Auburn's most highly-ranked commit. He's 48-2 as a starter and has won back-to-back Texas Class 6A state championships at Houston's North Shore High. He has completed 72.6% of his passes for 2,719 yards and 30 touchdowns (to one interception) to go along with 570 rushing yards and 13 more scores so far this season.
Other commits who still plan to sign Wednesday include four-star guard Jaeden Roberts – Davis' teammate at North Shore – three-star guard Garner Langlo, three-star safety Phillip O'Brien Jr. and three-star wide receiver Hal Presley, per Keith Neibuhr of 247Sports.
But others may step back to reevaluate things. Four-star Tallahassee, Florida, safety Ahmari Harvey, the second-highest rated commit in the class, tweeted a few hours after Malzahn's firing was announced that "Things might get interesting signing day."
He plans to announce his decision Wednesday morning.
Neibuhr also reports that three-star Lehigh Acres, Florida, athlete Tar'Varish Dawson will wait until February to sign, and three-star Humble, Texas, tight end Landen King could, too, though both publicly remain committed. The top-rated commit in the class, four-star Eight Mile defensive tackle Lee Hunter, has not revealed his plans.
It's possible that the commitments of transfer offensive lineman Eric Wilson (Harvard) and tight end Grant Calcaterra (Oklahoma) could also be up in the air, pending the hire of a new coach and staff.
The coaching change has also affected where Auburn stands with some of the uncommitted prospects it was chasing, many of whom Malzahn had indicated he expected to hear good news from.
Four-star Jesup, Georgia, linebacker Trevin Wallace and three-star Starke, Florida, cornerback Dontae Balfour both had plans to sign Wednesday, with Auburn being considered the favorite, but will instead wait until February.
Five-star Miami linebacker Terrence Lewis, who was once thought to be leaning Auburn, revealed Tennessee and Maryland to be his two finalists on Monday.
Auburn did not sign a recruiting class ranked below 12th nationally during Malzahn's tenure, and six of eight ranked in the top 10.
While things remain uncertain with the 2021 class, the Tigers did pick up a 2022 commitment from three-star Opelika defensive back Jarell Stinson on Monday.
Here's where things stand for Auburn:
Commits who plan to sign
- 4-star safety Ahmari Harvey (Tallahassee, Florida)
- 4-star quarterback Dematrius Davis (Houston, Texas)
- 4-star guard Jaeden Roberts (Houston, Texas)
- 4-star defensive tackle Marquis Robinson (Milton, Florida)
- 3-sar wide receiver Hal Presley (Arlington, Texas)
- 3-star safety Phillip O'Brien Jr. (Deerfield Beach, Florida)
- 3-star guard Garner Langlo (Ocala, Florida)
- 3-star cornerback Kamal Hadden (Independence Community College)
Commits who could sign
- 4-star defensive tackle Lee Hunter (Eight Mile)
- 3-star tight end Landen King (Humble, Texas)
Commits who plan to wait until February
- 3-star athlete Tar'Varish Dawson (Lehigh Acres, Florida)
- 3-star defensive end Tobechi Okoli (Kanas City, Missouri)
Uncommitted targets to watch
- 3-star defensive end Ian Matthews (Columbus, Georgia)
- Auburn or Georgia Tech — 11 a.m. CT
- 4-star running back Armoni Goodwin (Trussville)
- Auburn or LSU — 6 p.m. CT
- 3-star cornerback Armani Diamond (Mobile)
- Current Louisiana Tech commit — TBD
- 3-star defensive end George Wilson (Virginia Beach, Virginia)
- Auburn, Florida State or North Carolina — Friday